Sunday, May 8, 2016

A lovely day in "Chapelboro"

It's no secret that my first plan, once I'd made up my mind that it was high time for Team WestEnders to get the heck out of Dodge--um "Maryland"--involved trekking cross-country to relocate on the other coast, in California. When that proved to be...unpopular (with my family)...and unsanctioned (by Husband's employer)...the adult members of our squad rallied to formulate Plan B. Selecting North Carolina was easy, based on some of the criteria that were important to us: abundant natural beauty, including proximity to both mountainous terrain and coastal environs; as well as a wide variety of outdoor activities...and the temperate weather in which to properly enjoy them.

Narrowing down the particular section that we preferred within the region wasn't all that difficult, either. We were leaving an area that provided excellent education, fabulous cultural offerings, and just...lots of stuff to do...which meant that we would settle for nothing less from our new surroundings. This brought us to Chapel Hill, built around the venerable UNC, home to arguably the best school district in the state, and all-around charming with its adorable small-town atmosphere--while at the same time being within a short distance of the additional, extensive dining, sports, theater, and entertainment options in nearby Durham and the capital city of Raleigh.

From there, it was "simply" a matter of house-hunting, and finding both the home and the neighborhood that felt like the right fit for our family. And whattya know...we ended up in a tree-filled development, bordering a patch of land criss-crossed by miles of paths open to walkers, runners, and bikers (the Carolina North Forest, owned by UNC), and inhabited by many families with kids the same ages as ours. Now, when we moved in, we knew we were 3 miles from the university (and what that meant in terms of exposure to both the academic and...extra-curricular...lifestyles). But what we weren't yet aware of was the fact that another tiny little 'burb lay directly between us and Chapel Hill. However, we soon discovered the unique character of Carrboro--or "Hippietown" as Derek insists on calling it.

Not that my Generation Z child (Hold on--I looked that up so I'd know what term to use, but is that really a thing? Sounds fishy to, we'll go with it, 'cuz the Internet NEVER fibs, right?) would know a hippie from a hipster, mind you, but he means it in a "peace, love, creativity" kind of way, not as a put-down. And I've gotta say...he's not wrong. Case in point, these signs have popped up in most of the windows overlooking the central thoroughfare, as a result of--and protest against--the reviled HB2 law (Biting my tongue to curtail hotheaded rant expressing my thoughts on the subject...) Ahhh, Carrboro. This just kind of sums up the vibe: inclusive, friendly, accepting.

And to further explain its appeal, you've got Weaver Street Market (a local co-op) boutiques...independent impressive year-round farmer's market...funky restaurants and coffee cafes....natural practitioners of the whole gamut of non-traditional medical therapies...multiple bicycle shops...small night clubs...and not one, but TWO stores selling actual vinyl albums. Are you getting the idea that I L-O-V-E this quirky place? One of the things I like best is that on any given day--but particularly on gorgeous Spring afternoons such as we enjoyed this weekend--there are swarms of folks out-and-about...strolling, shopping, noshing, exercising, people-watching, and what have you.

So, one day recently when I was engaged in a similar endeavor, I happened to catch sight of a mural that I hadn't noticed before, between two buildings. This reminded me that, up and down the main streets of both Chapel Hill and Carrboro, there are a plethora of decorated walls--which you really can't appreciate unless you're on foot rather than driving by at 30 mph. Thus I decided that for my Saturday workout this week I would undertake a self-guided Art Tour, and photograph some of the colorful expressions. Aaaannnnd...(dah dah dah DAH) here are a few of my favorites:

First, the one that started it all for me, on the Jade Palace restaurant. I hadn't taken the time to read all the detail previously, which I learned describes the signs of the Chinese zodiac. Pretty cool...
Then there's the Mellow Mushroom, which although it's technically a chain eatery, still bears some amazing pictures to jazz up its exterior. The one below is super-easy to miss, in an alley near UNC's entrance. However, it's also close to where I go to get my hair cut, so I stumbled across it when meandering from my parking spot to the salon one day. I think it must be updated regularly as well, because it has Black Lives Matter and Je Suis Charlie represented among the many drawings that make up the collage effect.

This one is just iconic--everyone who lives here or visits the city probably has the same picture...but it's gorgeous, nonetheless. (And slightly unexpected, as it faces away from the hubbub of Franklin Street. Thus if you don't know to also explore the parallel Rosemary, you might miss it. So, consider yourself fully're welcome...)

We love this one, because it makes you look twice when you first encounter it...and then laugh out loud because it's so clever and unexpected. The entire thing is of course a painting...of two kids filling in a color-by-numbers painting...and it continues around the front of the structure as well. It makes me smile every time I pass it...

 And finally, back to Carrboro for a silly, amusing end to our journey. Not possessing even an ounce of artistic talent myself, I'm in awe of the people who envisioned and realized these special projects, and I'm grateful for the beauty and whimsy they lend to our little corner of the world. And after an hour and a half of wandering around in the sunshine, I'm also thankful for the aforementioned java joints...where I can feel invited  to "come as you are"...and slake my thirst with a locally-roasted iced coffee. Mmmmm....peace...out!

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